Archive - May 2014
Massachusetts BBQ: Depot Grille Reviewed
The site's 311th barbecue review is for Depot Grille & Bar (Pepperell MA), a strip mall eatery whose barbecue cred I initially doubted when it was suggested to me by a reader years ago. Should I have trusted my first instinct? Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my review of Depot Grille & Bar
Boston Barbecue: Causeway Opening Near
Although they missed the projected late April or early May opening, it now looks like "that barbecue joint across from the Garden" is within weeks of opening, according to pitmaster Ruben Garza. The outside may be boarded, but the kitchen is outfitted with a J&R smoker and the interior decor (a mix of sports, spirits and rock & roll) is nearly complete. There are bars on the first and second floors, with roomy leather booths and banquettes making for a comfortable dining setting. Most of the walls are exposed brick.
Here's a quick and admittedly blurry look at what I found when I stumbled in.
See the rest of the photos here
Massachusetts BBQ: Carnivores Reviewed
The site's 310th barbecue review is for Carnivores All American BBQ (Milford), a month-old over-the-counter joint with a wide menu. Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my review of Carnivores
Site Talk: How Many Visits Per Review?
In response to a photo in the PigTrip Facebook Page yesterday, reader Dan asked:
What rules do you have for reviewing new restaurants? Do you try it a certain number of times before posting a review? I've always found that new places have considerable growing pains, so I don't make any decisions based on my first visit. But then again, a new BBQ restaurant could really benefit from a review on here and may not have the time to wait for you to get there 2 or 3 times.
I'm hoping an answer here is of benefit and interest. There aren't any hard and fast rules, but several factors impact the approach.
The simple (and ideal) answer to the question of how many visits to make before doing a review is "however many it takes to form an opinion I can stand behind." And that varies. Some joints I can peg (or at least think I have pegged) in a single visit. Others could go either way in that good/bad coinflip. Some have very different first and second visits, and the third is the tiebreaker. Some are just plain inconsistent. Some aren't so good but the potential is obvious. Others aren't so good and I can't see them ever being any better.
Last summer I reviewed Mainely Meat (Ellsworth ME) and 4 Points BBQ (Winterport ME), visited once apiece on a mini vacation. Sure, more visits would have been great. But I have no idea if I'll ever make it up to that part of Maine within a lifetime, never mind a year, so one visit each it had to be and one visit each it was. Other joints, such as Riverside Barbeque (Nashua NH), Smokestack Urban Barbecue (Worcester MA) and Slowbones (Burlington MA), got 6+ visits apiece because it was geographically easy for me to do so. A few that I hope to hit this summer in the Hudson Valley will be 1-visit reviews out of necessity.
Beyond doing multiple visits to combat the possible "errant" early review, I try wherever possible to look past just the meals I've eaten and imagine what things might be like with more seasoning (the intangible kind, not spices). I do that even for places that have been around a while. With barbecue especially, one visit is not always representative, so I try to point out things might be better with better luck on timing the next visit and better skill in the holding or reheating.
But let's get one thing straight: there are some who say it's unfair to review a barbecue joint in the first few months, and to that I say bullshit. If the doors are open and they're charging for the food, they're also open for criticism. And if they're one of those joints who brag on their website that they are "the best barbecue on the planet" (or such), then they're really open for criticism.
That said, there's still reason not to review a joint too soon. The common perception is that places improve over time, and that's not always the case. Sometimes, a joint is best at or near the beginning of its existence because the staff has been well trained, the owner/chef/pitmaster is onhand every night and the standards are kept high by coaching and constant observation. Then, through a combination of staff attrition, owner/chef/pitmaster distraction (always more projects) and gradual decline of standards (much like my diets over the years), the quality goes down instead of up. Then there are the cases where reality sets in: after the first few weeks, shifting focus on efficiency and the bottom line can cause some recipes to be stripped of key ingredients, some preparations to be compromised and some portions to be cut.
But I digress.
For new restaurants of high importance and curiosity, such as Hometown BBQ (Brooklyn NY), Salvage BBQ (Portland ME) and Sweet Cheeks (Boston MA), there are two conflicting goals in play: I want to have an early review that might get PigTrip some coverage from mainstream and quasi-mainstream media sites, but I also want to be thorough and accurate. Solution: I do a "First Look" review, sometimes calling it "Preview"—not to be confused with the kind of preview restaurants sometimes hold for the usual gang of freebie-grabbing bloggers I'll never join—based on a very early first visit. I then go back and do a more in-depth real review based on more visits over time. This approach I think is a good compromise between early and accurate.
In general, the more important a joint is, the more visits I want going into the review and the more dishes I want covered. When my long awaited review update for Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q (West Newton MA) happens, it's going to be based on several visits.
While this is just a hobby and the restaurant budget comes out of my own pocket, not a publication expense account, I still try to have a sense of fairness and journalistic integrity. Some may be disappointed that I never say "This place blows," but if I do a meat-by-meat rundown and say all of them were dry and none of them had flavor, I've said it blows without saying it blows. That said, unless the place outright lies to me, is rude to me or completely disrespects barbecue (or burgers) in general, I generally don't like to trash a place based on one tasting. If I am going to trash a place, I like to have photographic ammo and base it on multiple items per visit as well as multiple visits. Remember folks, the goal isn't to "get these guys." It's to describe the food well enough that any reader can decide whether to go.
But if it's absolutely horrible, especially if it's dangerously horrible, then sorry—I don't feel compelled to put good money after bad just to have bad food again.
Sometimes I know I'm not going to get to a place for a while and post a review right away rather than wait it out. Other times I mean to visit again right away but it keeps getting pushed off by the four W's (work, wife, weather, who's going with me). And then there are times when I wind up getting more visits than planned because I got so busy that never had time to write the review after the first visit or two.
So there ya have it. No hard and fast rules, but that's my thinking.
Brooklyn BBQ: G. Lee's Reviewed
The site's 309th barbecue review is for G. Lee's Smokin' BBQ (Brooklyn NY), a lesser known joint in the Brooklyn barbecue explosion, but one that's using real smoke. Check out the review via the Reviews page, the link above or the red icons in the Joints directory.
See my review of G. Lee's smokin' BBQ
Worcester Burgers: Ceres Bistro Reviewed
Time for another burger review, and for another from New England's second largest city. It's Ceres Bistro (Worcester MA) at the Beachwood Hotel.
See my burger review for Ceres Bistro
Joints Directory Madness
Here's the latest batch of barbecue Joints directory activity, spanning
six states. This time there are eleven new joints, one expansion, two closings, one slight name change, one website change and one new phone number.
NEW JOINTS and/or NEW TO THE DIRECTORY
Smoke Box BBQ (Hamden CT) is what happens when a restaurateur can't keep up with the demand for smoked meats at his bistro, so he creates a new lunchtime barbecue joint that stocks the bistro at night. Thanks to both Zeke and Lisa for info. www.smokeboxbbqhamden.com
Wire Mill BBQ (Redding CT) is one of those joints doing the website right: the menu and hours are easy to find, they tell you a bit about themselves and show you the smoker on which the barbecue is cooked, and the food photos look both good and real. www.wiremillbbq.com
Brutopia Bewery & Kitchen (Cranston RI) is "Cranston's first and only brew pub," opening tonight with an accompanying barbecue menu featuring both babybacks and spares. Joining forces are master brewer Sean Larkin and executive chef Wayne Gibson. Thanks to Jeff for info. www.brutopiabrewery.com
Carnivores All American BBQ (Milford MA) is a new joint with a wide menu including smoked wings and burnt ends Thanks to Steve for the info. Facebook
Bubby's High Line (NYC) is an expansion to the West Village located at street level under the High Line's southernmost entrance. www.bubbys.com
Southern Smoke (greater Burlington VT) is a food truck whose 2014 locations may still be in flux, but the 2013 schedule is posted in a positive review here. Thanks to Martin for the lead. www.southernsmokefoods.com
Fireside BBQ & Grill (Salt Point NY) is a Hudson Valley joint whose ribs appear to be "slow roasted," but tri-tip and peanut cole slaw add some character. www.firesidebbqgrill.com
Gaslight Bar & Grill (Lake George NY) is another Hudson Valley proponent of "slow roasted" meats, with an all encompassing, something-for-everyone menu. www.gaslightbarandgrill.com
Willie's BBQ (Benson VT) is a Thursday-through-Sunday trailer operation serving burgers, barbecue and southern food. Facebook
Delta Blue (Lake Placid NY) is a New Orleans joint with barbecue (smoked ribs, pork brisket) among its wide selection of Cajun fare featuring po boys, gumbo, shrimp and grits, crawfish etoufee and a few burgers and salads. www.deltabluelp.com
Yeah Baby's BBQ & Grill (Morristown VT) is a northern Vermont converted ice cream stand with a diner-like menu featuring burgers, dogs, soups and salads in addition to the barbecue. Facebook
The Shed BBQ (Rangely ME) is a northern Maine lakeside joint keeps things simple with ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and fried clams. Are you ready to get shedfaced? www.getshedfaced.com
Little Brother BBQ (Brooklyn NY) has closed. According to the phone message, it's closed temporarily and will be reopening as something else.
Belted Cow Bistro (Essex Junction VT NY) has closed. Thanks to Marc for the lead.
Phil's Old Fashioned BBQ (Milford NH) now has a phone. Facebook
Smoke House (Newport RI) is the new name of Smokehouse Cafe, with a new website to boot. It appears that ownership and much of the menu are the same. www.smokehousenewport.com
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